How to Start a Jesse Advent Tradition With Your Kids

I know. I know.

I’m one of those people right now.

It drives me batty when people leap frog right over holidays, but in this case, I’m trying to be helpful.

For the last several years, my family has done a Jesse Advent tradition. Every year, for the last several years, I get people commenting, “I need to do one of these!” “Dang, I’m too late!” “Next year!” “I need to remember to do this!”

So. Here’s your reminder.

If you’ve been wanting to put together an Advent tradition, it’s time to start thinking about it now. Not December 1 when everyone is instagramming their days and you feel left out.

See? HELPFUL.

What is an Advent Calendar?

Generally speaking, advent calendars are just a fun way to countdown to Christmas. It can be a super simple paper chain … one of those boxes you buy at the store with a tiny chocolate inside each day … or an incredibly elaborate, handmade display for containing small gifts throughout the month of December.

We also do a LEGO advent kit, because LEGO.

What is a Jesse Advent?

A Jesse Advent Calendar/tree is a daily ornament that you open with a devotional/Bible story … that begins with Creation … and ends with Jesus’ birth. In between is kind of the Cliffs’ Notes version of the Bible. I love this because it helps align MY heart with the true meaning of the Christmas season, and gives me a detailed and intentional way to talk to my kids about what Christmas is about … beyond pretty paper and twinkling lights. Because let’s face it: I get way too wrapped up in the shopping and glitter and ribbon and bows just like everyone else, and then I’m frantically trying to sneak in Bible stories and Luke chapter 2 on December 22.

A Jesse Advent Calendar can be super simple … or as elaborate as you want.

First, you’ll need a book/devotional to work off of:

We use this book. It felt overwhelming at first, and like it was way over my kids’ heads … but keep going. Each day is short and sweet, and every year we read from it, the kids are remembering the stories from the year before.

Ann Voskamp has written an adult version of a Jesse Advent, and now also a Family Friendly Jesse Advent, and while I’m totally coveting it and wishing I had started with that one (because, Ann), we started our tradition before she published these.

And, as with anything else, I would imagine you can google for a free version online somewhere.

***HELPFUL/FORCEFUL TIP: Pick a devotional and stick with it.*** 

While they all start with Genesis 1:1 and end at the manger, the middles can be different. Some will use the story of Jonah and ask for a whale ornament … and others won’t include Jonah’s story at all. If you change books mid-ornament acquisition, you might end up with a hodge podge of stuff and a random whale hanging on your Christmas tree. Not that I know this from experience or anything.

Most people display their ornaments on a small tabletop tree, but I prefer a clothesline type display. It keeps the ornaments chronological, visually telling the Bible Story. (See?  God created the world, Adam & Eve, Noah … .)

Now onto the ornaments.

  1. Some devotionals come with printable coloring pages. Your kids color the pictures, punch a hole in the top, string a ribbon through and voila: ornament.
  2. Get together a group of 25 women and do an ornament swap. Assign each person a day/ornament … they make 25 of them, and then you do a big exchange.
  3. Make all 25 ornaments yourself.
  4. Buy “real” ornaments. Like, from a store.

Personally, I chose the scavenger hunt turned wild goose chase option of #4. I wanted something durable that would stand the test of time and I don’t have the margin in my life to make 25 Anything.

Plus, I like the idea that (assuming they survive 18+ years of annual use), I can divide up the ornaments and hand them down to my grown children to build their own calendars around someday. Assuming.

Keep in mind that Option 4 is most expensive, and can be time consuming to hunt down 25 specific ornaments. But if you start buying now, you’ll have ample time and while it won’t actually make it cheaper, it’ll feel that way by spreading out your purchases over the next two months.

Plus, it’s a one-time expense. In theory.

(You can see all of my ornaments HERE.)

MORE HELPFUL TIPS:

  1. Carry around a list of the ornaments you need at all times. Even a simple photo on your phone of the table of contents from your devotional book. You never know when you’ll find yourself in a Christmas aisle! (This is the list from the book we use.)
  2. Check your regular ornament collection. You might have a handful already!
  3. Start at Macy’s. They have a “religious” tree display every year. Lots of Mary’s and Wise Men and Camels and such (not sponsored).
  4. I had good luck at Kohl’s, Target, World Market and Pier 1 for the remaining ornaments.
  5. Black Friday sales usually include Christmas ornaments. FYI.

Have you been wanting to start an advent tradition? Do you already have one?

That is all. Carry on with pumpkins, boots, scarves,and creations of nutmeg and cinnamon.


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Jeannett Gibson
Jeannett Gibson is a Jesus-loving mom of 4 kiddos, including twin girls, one of whom has epilepsy and cerebral palsy. She blogs about helping others even when your own life isn't going as planned at Life. Rearranged.